Edmund Spenser was a poet best known for The Faerie Queene, an epic poem and fantastical allegory celebrating the Tudor dynasty and Elizabeth I. He is often considered one of the greatest poets in the English language.
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John Milton was a poet and intellectual who served as a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under its Council of State and later under Oliver Cromwell. He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost (1667); written in blank verse, it is widely considered to be one of the greatest works of literature ever written.
He was a republican and fervent supporter of Oliver Cromwell. He had to go into hiding when the monarchy was restored and some of his works were burned. By this time he had lost his sight and his later works such as Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained had to be dictated to secretaries or family members.
This Sunday hymn was written by Edmund Spenser. It is Sonnet 68 in his Amoretti and Epithalamion.
The tune Farley Castle by Henry Lawes (1596-1662), so popular today, was written later than the words, but still pre-dates the Book of Common Prayer.
It is thought that Lawes sang as a chorister in Salisbury Cathedral, where his father was a lay vicar (= musician). In the early 1630s he was employed as one of Charles 1's musicians. During the mid-1630s he composed songs for Milton's Arcades. He wrote many songs - several hundred survive in manuscript. But little of his church music is heard today.
His brother William Lawes was killed in 1645 during the fighting at the siege of Chester during the Civil War.
Most glorious Lord of life, that on this day
didst make thy triumph over death and sin,
and having harrowed hell, didst bring away
captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, dear Lord, with joy begin,
and grant that we for whom thou diddest die,
being with thy dear blood clean washed from sin,
may live for ever in felicity:
And that thy love we weighing worthily,
may likewise love thee for the same again;
and for thy sake, who dost all grace supply,
with love may one another entertain;
[second half of the tune]
So let us love, dear Love, like as we ought;
love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Although considered one of the greatest English poets, Milton's hymn-writing was largely restricted to paraphrases of the psalms. This hymn is based on a selection of verses from Psalms 82, 85 and 86. The only other of his hymns in regular use these days is Let us with a gladsome mind, based on Psalm 136.
The tune St Stephen was composed by Revd William Jones (1726-1800) and was published in Ten Church Pieces for the Organ in 1789.
Revd. Jones used to regularly observe January 30 as a day of fasting and humiliation for the sin of one of his ancestors. He was a descendant of Col. John Jones Maesygarnedd, who had been tried, found guilty, then hanged, drawn and quartered at Charing Cross as one of the signatories to the death warrant of King Charles I of England. The King was executed on on Tuesday 30 January 1649.
The Lord will come and not be slow;
his footsteps cannot err;
before him righteousness shall go,
his royal harbinger.
Mercy and truth, that long were missed,
now joyfully are met;
sweet peace and righteousness have kissed,
and hand in hand are set.
Rise, God, judge Thou the earth in might,
this wicked earth redress;
for Thou art He who shalt by right
the nations all possess.
The nations all whom Thou hast made
shall come, and all shall frame
to bow them low before Thee, Lord!
and glorify Thy name!
Truth from the earth, like to a flower,
shall bud and blossom then,
and justice, from her heavenly bower,
look down on mortal men.
Thee will I praise, O Lord, my God!
Thee honour and adore
with my whole heart; and blaze abroad
thy name forevermore!
For each hymn we have provided a set of verses together with an electronically generated sound-track. The sound track does not provide any words - just the tune.
The selection of hymns to be included was subject to certain limitations, notably the restrictions of copyright. This meant that many modern hymns were excluded, and the exclusion even applied to some updated versions of traditional hymns. Some publishers have made a few minor changes to make hymns more "inclusive" and have then claimed copyright over the revised text. So in most cases the ORIGINAL texts have been used, even though these may not be the versions that appear in modern hymnals.
In deciding what tunes to be used, this has largely been the Webmaster's personal choice. It is a mixture of familiar tunes and tunes that are not well-known, but deserve to be better known. The webmaster has included some personal favourites (and excluded some pet hates!). The soundtracks provided go with the words provided - if there are four verses, the tune is repeated four times. Where possible tunes have been provided with descants or alternative arrangements.
Wherever possible, there is an explanation of who wrote the words or tunes, the circumstances under which they were written, when (and sometimes why). Many hymns include references to verses appearing in the King James Version of the Bible; more modern translations were not then available! In some cases we have tried to explain these scriptural references or other instances where words have changed their meaning over time.
This selection of "Sing-along Songs of Praise" was originally a series of blog posts written during the COVID Lockdowns of 2020. It was intended to allow people to sing hymns in the safety and privacy of their own homes at a time when hymn-singing in church was not allowed (even if the church building was open!).
When hymns are sung as part of a church service, it is normally the case that the hymn books are set aside at the end of the hymn and the next part of the service continues. There is no time to sit and reflect on the meaning or the beauty of words and/or music. This collection allows you to take your time, to read, listen sing along, reflect, and to repeat a hymn again if you wish.
The picture of the chalice is symbolic of:
"A joyful image of a Eucharistic community which knows how to celebrate God's goodness to us but also how to reach out to the community and connect with those in need, in pain, in difficulty, who feel lost or neglected, or that they don't belong."
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